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Belgian football’s dark underbelly exposed


Clube Brugge’s Croatian coach Ivan Leko was also taken in for questioning. (Reuters Photo)

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Match-fixing cloud
A statement released by federal prosecutors claim that a year-long probe into Belgian football shed light on “suspect financial operations” by sports agents and strong indications “of possible influencing of games” over the last season.

Wide-spread raids
According to the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office, 44 raids took place across the country on Wednesday. And 13 more in France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia.

Relegation fight
The match-fixing allegations are not centred on winning the Belgian league, which involves clubs such as Anderlecht, Club Brugge, and Standard Liege. It is centered on the relegation fight and a once-famous club, FC Mechelen.

Serious allegations
The charges filed against 19 people include belonging to a criminal organization, match fixing, money laundering, and corruption, said federal prosecutor’s spokesperson.

The Big fish
According to the statement, among those detained is powerful player agent Mogi Bayat, who has been charged with money laundering and conspiracy. Also in custody are fellow player agents Dejan Veljkovic and Karim Mejjati.

Referees in the dock
Referee Bart Vertenten has been arrested and charged with conspiracy, while former Another referee, Sebastien Delferiere, was charged but was immediately released on parole on Thursday. Both of the referees have been suspected by the Royal Belgian Football Association (KBVB).

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FA offers support
The Belgian Football Association said it would cooperate with the investigation and would contribute with “full transparency” if required. In a Tweet on Wednesday, Belgium’s Justice Minister Koen Geens said: “Match-fixing undermines the integrity of sports. The Justice Department is working for a fair sport.”

In Limbo
The scandal has led Belgium’s second division, the Pro League, to postpone all of this weekend’s matches. The top flight Jupiler League is not in action due to the international break.

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